Saint Nicholas Cathedral: Russian Elegance in Nice

Visitor's Guide: How to experience the beauty of this Orthodox cathedral

The Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church is one of the greater the number of than a century-old (1902–1922) ecclesiastical and historical landmarks of Nice. The greatest and most exquisite Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia is located here in Western Europe. This property belongs to the Russian Federation, is recognized as a national monument of France, and currently belongs to the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The vibrant basilica is evocative of Moscow’s renowned Saint Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square due to its gorgeously depicted onion domes. Despite being in France, the church is managed by the Moscow Kremlin. Since 1987, it has been a listed building.

Architecture of Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Nice

The six domes of Saint Nicolas Cathedral in a little park on Boulevard du Tsarévitch stand out against the blue sky of Nice even from a distance. The highly adorned façade indicates that this is the biggest Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia. Only upon closer scrutiny do the meticulous particulars that transform the cathedral into an imposing piece of art become apparent.

The interior of Saint-Nicolas Cathedral is exquisitely ornamented and features the traditional church shape of a Greek cross. The inside of the church is exceptionally unique and fascinating because of the combination of priceless wood paneling, priceless paintings, priceless icons, and intricate gold work. The architecture of this church is Moscow style and is full of ornamental sculptures, wall writings, and wooden reliefs. The church’s interior is likewise an ancient and religious site.

Architecture of Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Nice
Architecture of Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Nice

History of Saint-Nicolas Cathedral in Nice

Since Tsar Alexander II visited the Côte d’Azur in 1864, adhering to the footsteps of British high society, and was thrilled by the warm temperature in Nice, the south of France has attracted an increasing number of Russians. Russian Tsar Nicholas II ordered and funded the basilica in the early twentieth century when the Old Russian Orthodox church in Rue Longchamp became too small. Michel Preobrajenski, a Russian architect, designed the church in the Old Russian style.

The chapel was erected on the place where the Tsar’s son Nikolai Romanov, who was already critically sick, died of measles in 1865. After ten years of building, the church was dedicated in 1912 and quickly became the most prominent site of worship for Russian Orthodox Christians in Nice and its surrounds in southern France.

View of Saint-Nicolas Cathedral in Nice
View of Saint-Nicolas Cathedral in Nice

How to visit the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral

If you go inside now, you may expect to see magnificent frescoes, murals, and wooden sculptures. The inside is designed in the shape of a Greek cross. The beautiful iconostasis encircling the choir, built by the Khlebnikoff workshops in Russia, deserves special mention. Preceding you go, you ought to understand that the cathedral is open per day from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. (May to October), and 9.30 a.m. to 12 p.m., 2 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. (November to April).

Free to enter, but keep in mind that this is a place of worship, so cover your knees and shoulders. As you explore the interior, remember to keep quiet as well. Before visiting this church, visitors must follow specific rules to enter it. For example, men are not allowed to enter in shorts or naked, and women are not allowed to enter in short skirts or shorts, shoulders must also be covered.

Saint-Nicolas Cathedral, Nice
Saint-Nicolas Cathedral, Nice


One of Western Europe’s most prominent Orthodox cathedrals is the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas, also listed as a French national treasure. But now it belongs to the Moscow region. Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church was built in 1912 by the wealthy Tsar Nicholas II.

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